Beirut dazzled listeners with its shimmering debut "Gulag Orkestar," an enchanting mixture of pop, folk and bittersweet Balkan music.
And now to keep fans' attention, frontman Zach Condon is releasing the "Lon Gisland" EP, which continues the slightly angsty gypsy pop and colourful marches. It doesn't really take Beirut's music anywhere, but it's a glorious piece of work on its own.
It opens with a ukelele being strummed, before Condon begins singing mournfully that if he were young, "'I'd flee this town/I'd bury my dreams underground." An accordion and a dramatic blare of trumpets join in as he sings of wanting to escape and "take the big king down."
Things get cheerier with the next song, a colourful march full of sprightly brass and lots of drums. And then it's the middle ground with the more intimate, stripped-down flavour of "Scenic World," which sounds like gypsies on a laundry day.
"Long Island Sound" is kind of a disappointment, since it's basically just a sprawling trumpet tune with a few other instruments by the sidelines. Quite short, too. But it's more than made up for by the finale, the energetic and meditative "Carousels."
Beirut has a unique sound in its music -- warm and celebratory, yet melancholy and mellow. It's hard to believe that a musician as young as Condon could put such depth and passion into his music -- but there it is.
As with the full-length album, "Lon Gisland" overflows with smooth accordion, blares of well-worn brass, and rat-a-tat percussion, with the occasional flourish from tambourine or ukelele. It all melds together into a smooth summery sound.
Condon's lyrics are not as accomplished as the music itself, but they blend into the music very well. His smooth, strong vocals make up a great deal of the appeal, with a little wobble that adds vulnerability to his singing.
"Lon Gisland" is pretty short, but it will have to tide the fans over until the next full-length. Beautiful, bittersweet and utterly enchanting.
More of an extension of the debut album rather than a glimpse at the "Parisian" sound we're promised for the follow-up, but, considering how much I loved Gulag Orkestar, that's not really a bad thing. In fact, the songs on Lon Gisland show a more mature side of Zach Condon, with better production and grander instrumentation not destroying the naive charm that made the first album so special. This is more than a little easy to fall in love with.